Dinner in the Agafay Desert near Marrakesh

Agafay: an evening full of magic in the desert

The Agafay stone desert is located just under an hour outside of Marrakesh in a south-east­erly direc­tion with a view of the High Atlas. Even if it does­n’t have the impres­sive sand dunes of the Ergs south of the Atlas, the waste­land with its view of the often snow-covered moun­tains is well worth a visit.

An overnight stay in one of the camps is a special expe­ri­ence, but a sunset dinner followed by a return to Marrakesh is also highly recommended.

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If you are spend­ing more than 3 days in Marrakesh and have not planned a round trip to the sand deserts in the south of Morocco, you should defi­nitely plan an day-trip here. You can get a good overview of the offers in advance via our part­ner Getyourguide: Sunset in the Agafay Desert*.

Out of the city for dinner

There’s an old saying that you’re spoiled for choice. So it is with the choice of dinner options in Marrakesh. In addi­tion to historic restau­rants in charm­ing, time-honored court­yards with orange trees and palm trees, there are dreamy restau­rants on the rooftop terraces high above the medina. Compet­ing with them are the kitchens of the riads, where excel­lent menus are prepared in the tradi­tional way. The new town, on the other hand, offers a wide range of styl­ish restau­rants with cuisines from all over the world and in all price categories.

And yet it is worth look­ing beyond Marrakesh.

Just a few kilo­me­ters beyond the city limits, where people can no longer wrest olive and orange groves from the rocky ground, the stone desert of Agafay begins.

Agafay rises from the plain as a gentle hill­top, domi­nated by reddish-yellow rock and sand. 

During the day, the heat shim­mers over the stones and blurs the horizon.

Camp in the Agafay desert near Marrakesh.
You can also spend the night in the desert camps

The sunset here is a very special spec­ta­cle in its own right. 

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The camps at the foot of the High Atlas

Arranged like a silhou­ette, the view from east to south rests on the ever higher moun­tain ranges of the foothills, which are finally bordered by the passes and peaks of the High Atlas rising to over 4,000 meters. Until well into early summer, these peaks with their snow-covered slopes reflect the light of the sun burn­ing up on the west­ern hori­zon in a special way. 

To the north, the soft bare hill­tops of other hills can be seen, while to the west the sun seems to sink into the foothills of the Agafay cliffs.

White Camel Lodge in the Agafay Desert near Marrakesh.
The White Camel Lodge in the Agafay stone desert

During the day, the stone desert itself appears empty and barren at first glance.

The narrow asphalt road winds like a snake between the rocky moun­tain peaks and leads seem­ingly to nowhere. Now and again, lonely sign­posts with bold names such as Scarabeo Camp, Canyon Lodge or Oxygen Camp Lodge appear out of this noth­ing­ness. If the eye follows the indi­cated direc­tion and the dusty track, the view is once again lost in noth­ing­ness. From time to time, plumes of dust on the hori­zon show that this road is actu­ally being used.

The appear­ance of deso­la­tion is decep­tive, as camps with surpris­ingly luxu­ri­ous facil­i­ties await visi­tors at the end of the dusty and seem­ingly endless slopes. 

Sunset at the White Camel Lodge in the Agafay desert near Marrakesh.
Infin­ity pool with a view of the sunset

Tents are lined up along the hill­top with the best views of the surround­ing coun­try­side, offer­ing every­thing from simple rooms to luxury rooms. 

Behind the tents, the clear water of a pool sparkles in the sunlight on a plateau, framed by a panorama bar. A little further away and with a feel­ing for the beau­ti­ful view, there is a beau­ti­fully furnished tent for the evening dinner.

White Camel Lodge in the Agafay desert near Marrakesh.
Sundowner in the desert

It is a spec­tac­u­lar expe­ri­ence to sit by the pool and soak up the light, the wind and the magnif­i­cent scenery with a glass of wine.

Every second, the sun changes the colors in the sky and the surround­ing moun­tains from sun-bright to purple-red to the pale blue of the first foothills of the night.

The heat of the day gives way to the pleas­ant cool­ness of the night.

After the spec­tac­u­lar display of colors, you can enjoy a multi-course dinner with orig­i­nal Moroc­can dishes. As dark­ness falls, torches and fires are lit. The darker it gets, the more the camp trans­forms into a magi­cal African place, where shad­ows dance across the tent walls and strange sounds whirl in the air. As dark compan­ions, the moun­tains constantly watch over the hori­zon, while a breath­tak­ing starry sky stretches from left to right above the heads of visitors.

The evening ends sitting by one of the fires, the air carry­ing the sounds of drums and bells from a little further away. With a drink in your hand, friends and good company engrossed in conver­sa­tion, spanned by a sea of a thou­sand twin­kling stars — this is the final magic of the Agafay, a combi­na­tion of expe­ri­ence and Moroc­can magic.

An unfor­get­table memory. 

Looking for a hotel in Marrakesh?

The best loca­tion in the medina, break­fast included, an oasis of peace in the middle of the souks: the Riad Selouane is the ideal address for your city trip!

Riad Selouane Marrakesh: View into the courtyard and over the roofs to the Ben Youssef Mosque


An arrange­ment for a visit to one of the camps is very easy to orga­nize. As in most riads and accom­mo­da­tions, our staff at Riad Selouane will be happy to arrange a book­ing at the desired camp. For a dinner with activ­i­ties such as camel rides, it is usually suffi­cient to book one or two days in advance.

In the city itself, there is an agency for all kinds of excur­sions in almost every alley­way. They can usually be recog­nized by colour­ful pictures of off-road vehi­cles, camel rides, quads or desert scenes. The excur­sions can always be booked includ­ing arrival and departure.

Some camps pick up guests in Marrakesh by bus and bring them back again. Here you should pay atten­tion to the pick-up loca­tion and time.

Payment is usually made imme­di­ately, drinks are charged at the end of the camp and must be paid before departure.

A private trans­fer via your riad has the advan­tage that the drivers will contact the riad, combined with the service of being accom­pa­nied to the pick-up point. 

Camels in the desert near Marrakesh, Morocco.

In addi­tion to cash, the camps also accept major credit cards — payment by app is not yet widely available.

The agen­cies in the city often offer inex­pen­sive pack­ages to the simple 2‑star camps, but the qual­ity of the camps and the food cannot keep up with the luxury camps. However, these prices include every­thing except drinks and, depend­ing on the offer, even the camel ride or quad biking.

A pack­age for 40 — 50€ per person includ­ing food, trans­fer and pool does­n’t have to be bad, but you should take a close look at the reviews of the camp on a review site such as Tripad­vi­sor before­hand. Unfor­tu­nately, condi­tions change quite quickly, so you should always obtain up-to-date infor­ma­tion. For exam­ple, this inex­pen­sive excur­sion with dinner, camel ride and show*gets good reviews.

In the luxury 4‑star camps, the stan­dard is much higher, the qual­ity of the food better and the facil­i­ties more styl­ish. These camps can rarely be booked as a pack­age. You book directly with the camp, plus a private trans­fer and any activities. 

Photo spot at Inara Camp near Marrakesh
Photo spot at Inara Camp

We partic­u­larly like the dinner at Inara Camp* and the camps La Pause and White Camel Lodge.

The prices are high, for a dinner you have to calcu­late over 50€ with­out drinks, but the atmos­phere in these camps is some­thing very special.

There are even private tents for hire for a roman­tic dinner for two.

You can also visit all the camps during the day and have lunch there. After a camel ride or a quad bike ride, hang­ing out by the pool before head­ing back into town in the evening is also a great expe­ri­ence. There are many offers for a Day Pass with pool and lunch*. The luxu­ri­ous Inara Camp also offers a day pass with lunch*.

Directions to the camp

The orga­nizer usually spec­i­fies an exact time and loca­tion for pick-up. However, it is advis­able to ensure a pick-up time no later than three hours before sunset in Marrakesh. This leaves plenty of time in the camp to see every­thing before the light of the sun begins to enchant the landscape. 

The tour oper­a­tors usually have meet­ing points in the area around the Jemaa el Fna. The jour­ney takes place in comfort­able and well-main­tained off-road vehi­cles or minibuses. Depend­ing on traf­fic, the jour­ney takes about an hour. 

You can book a private driver via your hotel or in advance with Getyourguide: Trans­fer to the Agafay Desert*.

If the conver­sa­tions with the driver actu­ally run out of steam, which is actu­ally out of the ques­tion given the sheer endless base of stories and myths about Marrakesh, then sounds from the radio set the rhythm of the jour­ney. If you don’t like Berber music, we recom­mend the Moroc­can hit parade on Hit-Radio Marrakech. Often a copy of the hits known from their home­land — just in Arabic. 

Campfire in the luxury camp in the Agafay stone desert near Marrakesh.
Camp­fire in the luxury camp

With music blar­ing from the radio, the many construc­tion sites of the incred­i­bly fast-grow­ing city fly past to the left and right of the road. As bleak as the build­ing sites look, large adver­tis­ing signs announce what will soon be real­ized here as a new stan­dard of living. And despite all this progress, donkey carts, rick­ety bicy­cles and smok­ing mopeds with up to four people on them are part of the every­day street scene. Just like the olive and orange groves and euca­lyp­tus trees further out, outside the new build­ing areas. 


Many camps offer other activ­i­ties in addi­tion to dinner. 

In addi­tion to private dinners for two in your own tent, larger tents can be booked for groups through to event tents for entire parties and all occasions.

As a rule, day guests are also allowed to use the pool in the camps. It is there­fore advis­able to pack a towel and swimwear. Towels are only provided as a service in a few camps. Addi­tional charges may apply for use of the pool.

Quad biking in the Agafay desert in Morocco.

Quad bike rides through the Agafay with views of the city of Marrakesh rest­ing on the plain are at the top of the list of daytime activities. 

Each camp also offers the possi­bil­ity of short or extended camel rides. The camels them­selves are extremely patient and gentle animals for the inex­pe­ri­enced rider.

Camel rides at sunset in the Desert d'Agafay near Marrakech.
Camel rides at sunset

Led by a guide, they walk over sand and stony ground with their soft, large hooves and great surefootedness. 

From the slightly sway­ing saddle, you get another view of the landscape.

Imag­ine trav­el­ing to Timbuktu in this way for 56 days…

In addition to the typical activities, there are also far more unusual offers:

How about explor­ing the Agafay Desert in a motor­cy­cle side­car*? Or explore the stony desert on a horse­back*? Or with the paraglider over the desert?*

In the evening, the camps offer a vari­ety of spec­ta­cles from music and shows with riders and horses to fireworks.

However, as a musi­cian with rattles and drums gives at least one inter­lude at every dinner and the evening itself conveys so many impres­sions, you can enjoy Moroc­can culture in almost every camp.

Agafay is a real desert: as warm as it was during the day, it can get very cold in the evening, espe­cially in the winter months. A warm jacket against the night-time chill makes you feel more comfort­able after dinner as you gaze at the endless sea of stars.

Food and drink in the camp

A pepper­mint tea is usually served as a welcome to the camp. 

In addi­tion to local drinks and fresh juices, many camps also offer Moroc­can wines and a selec­tion of spir­its. Well-known brands are repre­sented among the soft drinks, for exam­ple tonic water. Beer usually comes from a can.

It usually starts with a soup, often a deli­cious harira.

Then there is a selec­tion of tagine, with lamb or chicken, refined with fruits such as dates and plums. It is served with couscous.

Camp and venue in the Agafay desert near Marrakesh.

The meals in the camps are divided into three or four courses, tradi­tion­ally Moroc­can, and are served in tents or on seated terraces in front of the tents, depend­ing on your pref­er­ence and the time of year. 

Finally, there is of course a dessert, here the options are very varied and depend on the cuisine of the respec­tive kitchen. 

The food is usually accom­pa­nied by pleas­ant back­ground music from an often very rustic music system. The music is inter­spersed with a live perfor­mance between courses. Three or more musi­cians come from table to table with drums and bells and, in addi­tion to the rhythm and singing, make the pom-poms on their caps spin. It looks easier than it is — but you are welcome to try it out for yourself. 

As a typi­cal conclu­sion to the meal, a mint tea is offered again at the end of the meal with some dry cook­ies that are custom­ary in the country.

Return to the city

The drivers wait patiently at the entrance to the camp in their off-road vehi­cles or buses and are often over­whelmed by Euro­pean punc­tu­al­ity. The motto is: always take your time and enjoy the evening.

The return jour­ney through the dark­ness makes the route seem completely differ­ent. Lights in the desert indi­cate where there are more camps or where other off-road vehi­cles are on their way back to Marrakesh. 

From time to time, people walk along the road in the dark — their desti­na­tion seems completely unknown to the observer — there is noth­ing but waste­land here! When you reach the R212, euca­lyp­tus trees line the road again and suddenly there is life on the road, even late at night. In the light of neon lamps, barbe­cue stands whiz past the window. Thick clouds of smoke rise from the hot barbe­cue fires into the dark­ness. Chil­dren run through the night, dogs watch the cars and cyclists perform some dare­devil maneuvers. 

For the drivers of the camps, this is an every­day occur­rence; they know the game as well as most of the passers-by. Every now and then people say hello or sound the horn. 

Many riads in the city are located directly in the medina, like the Riad Selouane. As most of the alley­ways are too narrow for cars, off-road vehi­cles or minibuses do not drive right up to the riad. So you still have to walk a little to get to the hotel. 

The streets and alley­ways of the medina are safe at night, with young men in partic­u­lar occa­sion­ally approach­ing the tourists. Here it is impor­tant to decline politely but firmly. 

More caution is needed for orien­ta­tion! As the traders have disman­tled all their stalls and cleared away the lavish displays of goods, every alley­way looks completely differ­ent at night than it does during the day.

Many riads there­fore consider it part of their service to pick up their guests person­ally after an evening out and accom­pany them directly to the riad. 

olive twig light brown

An evening in the Agafay Desert is a very special experience!

Agafay Stone Desert Info

From Marrakesh, there are many oppor­tu­ni­ties to explore the desert at the foot of the Atlas Mountains.

For an after­noon in Agafay, you should defi­nitely bring sun cream, sunglasses and headgear.

A small tip should be given to both the service in the camp and the driver if they were friendly and attentive. 

Looking for more information about Marrakesh?

Visit our travel guide to learn more about the sights of Marrakesh and Morocco!

Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakesh
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